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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strategic Stepping-Stone
This is the best military history book to be published since (and I'd rank it right up there with) last year's "An Army At Dawn" by Rick Atkinson. High praise, indeed, since that book won a Pulitzer Prize. If you've read the Atkinson book, you'll find that "Fortress Malta" complements it nicely, since both books end with the Allies poised for the invasion of Sicily. Mr...
Published on 30 April 2003 by Bruce Loveitt

versus
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but could have been so much better....
First I want to congratulate Jame Holland for writing this book. The heroism of the Maltese people, and all who fought to defend Malta is worth recording. I just wish it could have been a better book.

I found this book a rather curiously written affair. James Holland it is true, I think, has captured the (British) market in 'popular' military histories of WW2,...
Published on 6 Mar 2012 by Tim62


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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strategic Stepping-Stone, 30 April 2003
By 
Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This is the best military history book to be published since (and I'd rank it right up there with) last year's "An Army At Dawn" by Rick Atkinson. High praise, indeed, since that book won a Pulitzer Prize. If you've read the Atkinson book, you'll find that "Fortress Malta" complements it nicely, since both books end with the Allies poised for the invasion of Sicily. Mr. Holland, to judge by his photo on the dustjacket, looks to be still in his twenties.(This is his first book.) If he is indeed that young, that makes this book even more of an accomplishment. The quality of the writing and the way the book is structured demonstrate a great deal of skill and maturity. This is because the author has a lot of balls to juggle: he has to tell us about the aerial war; the surface naval battles; the submarine war; strategy and tactics, etc. This part of the story is well-told: there are many exciting sequences dealing with dogfights and convoys being stalked by submarines. But what elevates the book to the superior level is Mr. Holland's ability to bring home to us the human element. We get to know a lot of the pilots and submariners as real people- quirks and all. (Two people who "leap out" from the pages are Adrian Warburton and George "Screwball" Beurling. Warburton, despite being a reconnaissance pilot, managed the rare feat of becoming an "ace"- which means he shot down at least 5 planes. He was unorthodox. He once flew over Sicily to take some photographs, then made an unauthorized side trip to Greece to pick up some booze for the boys back at the base. He got away with such behaviour because he always got his photographs- no matter what. Beurling was the highest scoring Allied ace of the war, with over 30 confirmed kills, with an incredible 4 in one day.) The same is true regarding the civilian population. Everyone was under incredible stress- day after day, month after month, and year after year. For much of the time the island was under almost constant attack. There were severe housing and food shortages. Some people lived in underground "cubicles." Inadequate nutrition led to sickness and disease. On the military side, in the early-going, there weren't enough planes to defend the island. Often, 3-4 Hurricanes or Spitfires would go up to do battle with 50 or more enemy aircraft. As the Axis powers were in control of the areas both north and south of Malta, getting convoys through with essential supplies (planes, fuel, spare parts, food, etc.) was extremely difficult. Plus, there was the added psychological stress of being "trapped" on a small island. The entire island was awarded the George Cross, the highest civilian award for valour. The action was unprecedented. It was also well-deserved. After reading about these people for almost 400 pages I felt that I knew them. As I approached the end of the book I hoped Mr. Holland would tell us what happened to them after the siege of Malta was over. The author, once again, did not disappoint. There is a postscript which follows the lives of all the major "characters." As you might expect, this section is filled with both joy and sorrow. Some of the people led short and tragic lives, some long and happy. A surprising number are still alive today. (One is the well-known British actor Frederick Treves, known to this anglophile through his performances in the David Suchet "Poirot" and Joan Hickson "Miss Marple" stories.) The book has 7 pages of maps, placed in the beginning, which allow you to get your geographic bearings and follow the action. There are also over 80 wonderful black-and-white photographs. The dustjacket mentions that the author is working on 2 more books regarding the war in the Mediterranean. If "Fortress Malta" is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best World War II book I've read., 11 Mar 2004
By 
Peter Turvey (Christchurch, Dorset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I normally choose to read novels but during the past year I have also read three books about the Second World War : "Stalingrad" by Anthony Beevor, "A Bridge Too Far" by Cornelius Ryan, and now "Fortress Malta". The biggest compliment I can pay to "Fortress Malta" is that although the other two books have received much deserved praise, in my opinion "Fortress Malta" is the best of the three.
It tells the story of Malta's war from the moment Italy entered the war in the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1943 by which time Rommell had been defeated in North Africa and the Allies were preparing to invade Sicily.
Throughout the book the reader is kept informed of the events in Malta and their relationship to the rest of the War. But the thing that makes this book outstanding is the way the author introduces a wide range of characters : civilian workers, fighter pilots, nurses, sub-mariners etc. and tells the story of their lives.
I found "Fortress Malta" fascinating and each evening when I got home from work I couldn't wait to pick up the book and find out a bit more about Frank Rixon, Nat Gold, Meme Cortes, John Agius, Ken Griffiths et al.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Maltese viewpoint, 9 Aug 2003
By 
F. Valletta "franvall" (Malta) - See all my reviews
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I am Maltese in my late 30s and I always remember my parents talking about the war in Malta. The subject has fascinated me since I was a teenager and I have read a lot about it. James Holland's book is undoubtedly the best one I have ever read. It is authentic and is written with the human touch - often missing in history books. I am amazed how Holland has managed to portray not only the heroism of the persons serving in the armed forces but also of the the ordinary Maltese citizens. It is a worthy tribute to the people of my country 60 years after these dramatic events - well done!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best World War Two books, 2 Jan 2004
By 
Alex Davies (Brentwood, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
James Holland has created aguably one of the greatest WWII books ever. His interpretation of the devastating seige upon the wonderful island of Malta during the years of 1940-1943 is a stirring and thought provoking tale.
Many colourful and forgotten characters spring to life within the pages. Holland paints a clear and vivid picture of the likes of Adrian 'Warby' Warburton, George 'Screwball' Beurling and George 'Shrimp' Simpson to name but a few.
Malta within three years became the most bombed place in the world, and within the pages of Fortress Malta you get a feel for the emotions expreienced by members of the RAF, the Navy and the citizens of Malta.
The most important aspect of the book is that Holland maintains the fact that there was always hope in this island of heroes and heroins.
If I could i would give this book more than 5 out of 5.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very compelling read - highly recommended, 30 July 2003
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Anyone with the slightest interest of the war in the Mediterranean should find this book a staggering achievement. It effortlessly combines the best elements of social and military history to provide a lucid and enthralling account of Malta's struggle to survive 1940-43. By following the lives of various people on the island we are given different perspectives of what life was like for those living through Malta's dark period of bitter struggle. I wasn't so sure that such an approach to writing history could be so rewarding for the reader, but Holland has done superb job. Not only do we get all the usual details of military problems (convoys/lack of military hardware etc..) but also the personal struggles of the pilots and ordinary folk living on the island. I knew that the people of Malta suffered terribly during the war, but this book also made me realise how remarkable their victory against overwhelming odds actually was. In retrospect Malta should have been a pushover for the Axis powers (the island was a low priority during the Battle of Britain), but the fact that it held out for so long is testimony to the strength and determination of it's people. This book is a fitting tribute to those who gave themselves to this struggle and a reminder of why the whole island was awarded the George Cross - the highest honour awarded for civilian bravery.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't know history could be this interesting!, 24 Dec 2003
By 
B Goodridge (Wiltshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Having dropped history as a subject as soon as possible when I was at school at the age of 13 and never really having any interest in it since (and I am now 33) I was astonished by the way this book gripped my desire to keep turning the pages. I really couldn't put it down. I was given it as a gift and what a wonderful gift it was. Not only does James Holland manage to bring the whole history of Malta under seige during the war to life with his engaging and thoughtful style, he also provides the reader with an attention to detail that is second to none. This is an extremely well researched book that is an absolute joy to read and I would strongly recommend it to anyone, young or old, male or female. It really has acted as a catalyst to open my eyes more to the history of this country and I hope it will do the same for others.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 12 Aug 2005
By 
Mr. P. G. Smith (London) - See all my reviews
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I've just finished this book and I loved it - I'm going on holiday to Malta at the end of this month and I'm going to read it again when I arrive.
James Holland writes a non-fiction story which is almost too unbelievable to be true. But it is true and it is a well researched book with great insights not only into the soldiers, navy and pilots but also the civilian population that must have faced the hardest challenges.
Warby - most decorated Allied pilot of the 2nd world war and Beurling - highest scoring allied pilot of the war are just two of the characters in the cast of this story.
I hope this is made into a film and I hope James Holland is consulted during the making of it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and well written history, 12 July 2007
By 
D. Cameron (England) - See all my reviews
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This is an excellent and very readable history of the Second World War siege of Malta. The author uses first hand accounts of the siege but includes these personal experiences within a fuller context of the overall history of the war in Malta (and in the rest of Europe). Consequently, it is a very full and involving account. Fighter pilots, submariners and other servicemen and residents of the island drop in and out of the story, as some leave, other new names arrive to take their place. What impressed me was how the reader ends up really caring about these people, and is keen to know what happens to them. Their backstories are also told, so you feel you "know" them by the time they arrive to take their place in history.
An excellent account that really added to my knowledge of the area, the war and how people on the island suffered. highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turning history book, 6 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege 1940-1943 (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Kindle Edition)
As somebody born in Malta, I had decided to right about Malta's crucial role in the Second World War years back for my A-level history class. Since then, I've found myself wanting to re-visit that and read some more books on the subject and I have to say this is a fantastic read. Not many history books are so factual whilst at the same time being page turners. From the beginning the various life stories grip you, leaving you wanting to find out how it all turns out for those people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read!, 24 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege 1940-1943 (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Kindle Edition)
As a Maltese I oblige any national to read this amazing piece which not only tells but manages to carry you back in time,. The writer bring alive and the emotions of that terrible and glorious time.
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